Gorham’s Cave on the east side of the Rock was discovered by a Captain Gorham in 1907. Its archaeological significance, as a site of Neanderthal occupation, was only realized in the 1950s when excavations were carried out. These revealed Mousterian stone tools, which had been made by the Neanderthals, along with a wide range of animal bones. Work resumed in 1989, when the Gibraltar Museum teamed up with the British Museum and the Natural History in London to commence the Gibraltar Caves Project. The excavations in Gorham’s Cave have continued until today and will continue in years to come.
Gorham’s Cave has an 18-metre deep archaeological sequence that covers the period from ~55 thousand years ago (kyr) to the third Century BC. The sequence is dominated by Neanderthal occupation right up to 28 kyr. The site is the last recorded place of Neanderthal occupation in the world. After the last Neanderthals, Gorham’s Cave was occupied by early modern humans between 20 and 13 kyr. The Palaeolithic sequences are rich in fossils, stone tools and other evidence which is being put together by the Gibraltar Museum to reconstruct the lives of the people who lived in the cave.
The top level of Gorham’s Cave was used by Phoenicians and Carthaginians between the 9th and 3rd Centuries BC. This was a coastal shrine at of the Pillars of Herakles, the end of the world. The ancient mariners left offerings to their gods for safe passage to and from the unknown.
This important cave is part of a sequence of caves known as the Gorham’s Cave Complex which is currently in the United Kingdom’s Tentative List for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.